Djibouti on the cheap - trip report.
Replies: 9 - Last Post: Apr 16, 2012 2:22 AM Last Post By: iggyab
Apr 7, 2012 6:10 AM
Djibouti on the cheap - trip report.Just got back from six days in Djibouti and it can certainly be done on a budget so I'll share everything I learned.
We flew from Hargeisa to JIB for $117 one way. Without warning the flight left forty-five minutes early! There's 30$ extra tax for foreigners and 3$ airport fee. Not sure how this differs from the $30 tax on the ticket!!
THE VISA RULES HAVE NOW CHANGED!!! My friend had an onward flight to Dubai whereas I was returning overland to Somaliland. According to new, unpublished from what I can see, rules you are not allowed a visa on arrival if you have no onward flight ticket. I had my passport taken from me and was escorted to a room and told to buy a ticket. There was nothing in that room except a bench so I wasn't entirely sure how I was to buy this ticket. I was allowed to see my friend for a minute before he left the airport and we were able to come up with something. We were couchsurfing in Djibouti Ville and our host took my friend to Ethiopian airlines ticket office (which didn't open until 16:00, it was 13:30 when we arrived) Whilst they were off doing that the officials were friendly but wouldn't escort me to the Bureau de Change even though I could see the cafeteria and wanted something to eat. It accepted dollars but couldn't break a $100! They asked why I wasn't aware of the rules. I had been to both the Embassy in Addis (it is 1100 birr for the visa plus the letter from your embassy) and the Consulate in Dire Dawa (told to go away) and both told me that I could fly in and bus it out. Two couchsurfers we hosted here have done the same in January, the rules must be very new. The cost of the ticket was 24600 DJF. I was then given the visa for $60. We drove straight to the travel agent and cancelled the ticket for no fee. What I would have done if a. we hadn't had a French speaking friend to drive my friend to the office or b. my non-French speaking friend was not there...I don't know. Maybe I'd still be there! (The same flights in Dire Dawa's Ethiopian Airline Office are $98 one way)
Beer in Djibouti Ville is incredibly expensive! 1000 for a St George or 2000 for a half litre. If you go to Casino supermarket it is 330 for a big can but they aren't refrigerated. There's nothing much to see but it is a friendly place and street food is cheap. Cokes are 50 in most places away from the very centre. We took two taxis in town and both quoted us a fair price at the start. One however then changed the fare half way through the journey. Like I said above we couchsurfed, but our host mentioned a place for $15 just out of the centre. I didn't pay much attention though. The tourist office has a list of transport options and the ferry timetable which is as follows:
Ferry goes to Tadjoura: Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday and Obock: Sundays and Wednesdays. 10:00 Departure (except for Thursday which is 12:00) 2 hours to Tajoura. 2.5 to Obock. According to the sign it is 700 francs to Tadjoura and 800 to Obock. We went to Obock and were only charged 700. The ferries all return the same day, supposedly 2 hours after arrival but we saw the Obock one leave around 3 hours after. Given the size of both towns they would make a reasonable day trip. Drinks are available on the ferry and according to our host it costs less to put a car on than the equivalent petrol would be for the drive!
Buses to Tadjoura and Obock go at 12:00 from somewhere called Arhiba. We saw them arriving into both towns when we visited. The other bus goes to Dire Dawa at 05:00 (it leaves nearer to 07:00 as any space not used is slowly filled up with people going to Ali Sabieh) and goes from Place Ali Sabieh, not on the maps but it's on Avenue Nasser. 3000 Francs for the ticket, more on that later.
So we left on a Sunday for Obock. Arrived at 12:30 with around 100 other people who disappeared into the small town. It is quite run down but has beautiful blue seas and a couple of nice buildings. Khor Angor on the waterfront serves fish and was the better of the two restaurants we saw. The hotel in the LP is quite a way out of town. Some policemen stopped us and asked if we were tourists. We said we were. "This place isn't for tourists." We asked why. They shrugged. Probably because there was nothing to do! After lunch we asked around for a lift to Tadjoura and were offered one leaving at 16:00 so we sunbathed on the dirty beach and talked to the few people who wanted to chat. We paid 1000 each to Tadjoura but we didn't really have much choice in the matter!
Tadjoura is much, much bigger than Obock. The road between the two has literally nothing there except an empty transport container. It is about 70km of flat road. We were dropped at a hotel run by a Maltese woman. Beer was the same price as in D.V and rooms with breakfast were 12,000 per night. Beer in La Golfe, about five hundred metres away were 1000 for 500ml of Tusker so marginally better priced. We didn't ask about the rooms. Anyway, we walked 1.5km past the town and camped on the deserted beach. Street food and tea was ridiculously cheap, we also ate in a small restaurant called Pause 24 so we could use their plug sockets. They had western drinks like Diet Coke, Coke Zero etc. and served fish and rice for 200 francs. There is nothing much to see but it is prettier than Obock. The weather isn't as hot as D.V because of the sparse population and the sea breeze. We asked around for a bus to Randa but were only offered D.V so we walked the 10km to the Randa junction.
The junction to Randa has a small hamlet, marked on the maps, which has a tiny shop selling warm sprite and the Tadjoura water factory. (The second time we hitch-hiked from there an old man going to Randa went and was given a free bottle of water by asking at the gates.) The roundabout has a statue which offers shade. We had been there thirty minutes before we were offered a lift to Randa. There's nothing to see in Randa and the only restaurant wasn't serving food the day we went. There was a vehicle the next morning to D.V but when the driver heard we wanted to get out at the Lac Assal junction he refused to take us, even though we said we would pay the full fare. We were offered rooms by a couple of locals, who generally do not speak French or Somali, but food was our major concern. A few women sell flatbread as the sun starts to set. When we discovered that all our electricals were out of power and there was no power in Randa for some days we decided to walk back to Tadjoura for breakfast (it was around 18:00) - 39km away. We got picked up by the first car at around 19:00 and they dropped as at Le Golf.
We passed signs for two campements and the scenery was interesting enough. If you had bikes or a car it would make a nice drive just for a change of scenery to the beach.
The day we wanted to go to Lac Assal was also the day the ferry came to Tadjoura so no vehicles were going via road to D.V. We hitched out to the roundabout (hoping for something from the mountains) and had a three hour wait for a car which took us to the junction. There is a village about 10km from the roundabout and then another after 20km. The road is quite hilly just before you reach Lac Assal and you can see it as you round towards Ghoubet Bay. If you had your own vehicle (or a good map) it would be possible to jump out here and make it to the lake in a quicker time. The road passes through the small village of Ghoubet (I think, although it is signposted as off to the left) There is a restaurant called Randa restaurant there. 6km later a sealed road goes off to the right, not signposted from the Tadjoura direction but signed the other way. It leads to Lac Assal 17km away. We arrived at 15:35 and started walking. After 1.5km you come to a small village which seemingly survives on foreign aid. There are no shops, just a mosque and a police checkpoint.
I chatted to the police and let them know our plans, they asked if we had water and then wished us good luck. The road winds backwards and forwards for 17km and we were at the lake before sunset. Four Afar traders were packing up their stuff when we arrived. We took (terrible, due to the light) photos, licked the salt and went for a swim. They hung around us but didn't speak much French. We had planned to camp down there but as we were two and they were four we didn't feel comfortable. We took it in turns to swim because they were sitting so close to our possessions, it would be hard to get out of there without shoes and water! Eventually they left us in peace and then came back and asked us if we would join them for dinner so I guess they weren't all that bad! We already had food so we thanked them and said no. Swam a bit longer then walked back up to the village. The wind was terrible. I've only once or twice experienced such strong wind in the mountains and this was at (below) sea level! We were up at the police checkpoint by 22:00 and they let us pitch our tent in their compound, offered us food and tea and were interested in chatting.
Having looked at our hosts' photos of Lac Assal it seems there is a bit more to it than we saw, the gap in the tectonic plate amongst other things. But we enjoyed it a lot and it was worth the effort. We took 6 litres of water each when we left Tadjoura by thumb and we still had some left when we got to Djibouti Ville. We woke up at 7 and walked the last 1.5km to the junction. After about 10 minutes a minibus came by and took us to D.V for 1000 each. It was only the second time we were charged for land transport in the country. It took 2 hours to get in to D.V.
The bus to Dire Dawa may be the most uncomfortable I have ever experienced in Africa. It was a banged up minibus to the border, no problem there. It left at 06:45 because it was filling up with passengers to Ali Sabieh. Two hours later we were at the border, strange on the Djibouti side because of a huge cage full of people next to the immigration police. They stamped me out no problem just asking for my address in D.V and my profession. Two minutes later you get to the Ethiopian side and get stamped in. There are fair money changers (also in D.V who can change birr into dollars, dollars into francs etc.) and random bag searches (mine were ignored but the Japanese guy's were searched) You are given a two-part ticket in D.V for 3000F half of which you give up in D.V and the other half is valid at the border as a voucher when you get on the next public bus going to Dire Dawa. We left the border around 10:00 and, nine hours sitting on a jerry can later, we got into D.D. The bus broke down three times, I think the usual ETA for D.D is 15:00.
So we both really enjoyed Djibouti. The people were very friendly and almost all honest. In D.V it is possible to get by with just English. Outside the cities you will need French in Obock and Tadjoura (where they also speak Somali) but in the hills Afar would be useful I guess! Some people still spoke French and it wasn't too hard to find them. All in all we met one English speaker out of the capital, he ran a shop in Obock and was Afar. We had wanted to hire bikes for our trip and cycle back. It would have made things a hell of a lot easier! The temperature wasn't as hot as everyone had made out but maybe we were lucky or we are just super fit or, more likely, we live in a similar climate ourselves so it wasn't too hard to adapt. We couldn't find bikes but that doesn't mean it isn't possible. We only had 15 hours between them letting me out of the airport and getting on the ferry. The tourist office say that visas will like as not go up to $100 in the near future. The government really don't seem keen on tourists. The people, they're great. And Lac Assal is worth the walk.
Hope this helps some future travellers!
Apr 7, 2012 6:45 AM
Apr 7, 2012 6:56 AM
2I live in a dry country so even 1000DJF for a Tusker seems reasonable! Though for the same price as 1 St George in Djibouti one can buy 10 in Dire Dawa. For the same price as 500ml draught in Djibouti one can buy 28 jambos (400ml of in Dire Dawa and still have enough for three samosas!
My friend, who doesn't touch alcohol, spent 6000DJF on the whole trip (excluding the visa and flights) I had four beers so checked in at a whopping 10,000 DJF. Only thing we felt like we missed was Lac Abbe although heard mixed reports of it. Moucha sounds nice but I guess a beach is a beach is a beach whereas Lac Assal is worth the visit (doesn't feel like it when you hit the 15km mark.)
Apr 10, 2012 1:06 PM
Apr 10, 2012 4:12 PM
4Hi there, great report, thank you!
By the way, does anyone knows if it is possible to go from Somliland to Djibouti by land?
If so, I was planning of getting both Somaliland and Djibouti visas in Addis Abeba? Is the obligation of having an outbond flight from Djibouti only applicable upon arrival at the airport or also land borders?
Many thanks for any help!
Apr 12, 2012 9:01 AM
Apr 15, 2012 10:04 AM
Apr 15, 2012 11:35 AM
Apr 15, 2012 5:01 PM
Apr 16, 2012 2:22 AM
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